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FIU Football: 2020 Signing Day Recap

The Panthers tentatively finish the 2020 recruiting period with the top-ranked class in Conference USA.

Rice v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

FIU’s 2020 recruiting period has come to a close with the Panthers adding six signees in addition to the 15 who joined during the early signing day period.

This year is highlighted by South Dade High School product Jose Mirabal, who is the top-rated player according to 247 Sports and enrolled early in December.

“Until they play you can’t say anything for certain, but obviously it’s exciting. It’s probably the best recruiting class we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said head coach Butch Davis.

For what it’s worth, the initial 247 Sports rankings back up Davis’ thoughts as the Panthers currently have the highest-ranked class in Conference USA and among in-state Group of Five programs by the recruiting service.

What remains to be seen is how many of the incoming freshmen will seeing immediate playing time.

Last season, Davis openly stated that the 2019 class would be the first where true freshmen wouldn’t have to be pressed into duty because of need.

However, with the graduations of multiple key players on both sides of the ball, and last year’s disappointing 6-7 season, there may be opportunities for playing time.

“I told the guys this - nobody’s guaranteed a starting spot and I mean that. We do have some veteran guys who are graduating as well, so we’re looking to put the best players on the field,” said Davis.

Of the true freshmen last season, tight end Kamareon Williams and guard Sione Finau saw the most playing time, with Williams playing in 12 games and Finau appearing in the final seven.

Expect incoming freshmen kicker Chase Gabriel to see time as the starting kicker, taking over for Jose Borregales who left for the University of Miami earlier in the offseason.

“He’s one of the first guys I reached out to. We’re excited about him and I’m really excited about him, he just scored four goals in a soccer game the other day and I can’t wait to get him on the football field,” said special teams coach DJ McCarthy.

Former LSU WR’s coach DJ McCarthy joins FIU’s staff after spending last season at FAU.

McCarthy, who was hired three weeks ago to replace James Vollono, has been spending much of his time getting up to speed after coaching at rival Florida Atlantic last season.

“It was a great opportunity to keep my family here in South Florida. I’ve coached special teams at every stop that I’ve been at and I’m an all-or-nothing type of guy. Expect that from my special teams - we’re looking to hit home runs,” said McCarthy.

Joining McCarthy as a new addition to the staff is Joel Rodriguez, who takes over Allen Mogridge after he left for South Florida.

Rodriguez comes to FIU after spending the past five seasons at Miami.

University of Miami vs Florida State
Joel Rodriguez played and worked at the University of Miami. He was recruited by FIU head coach Butch Davis.
Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

“It’s a hell of an opportunity, quite frankly one that I didn’t think would come open. Coach Davis introduced me to the offensive line group one-by-one and it’s been great,” said Rodriguez.

When asked what his style may be in relation to the fiery Mogridge, he laughed and said that there won’t be much of a difference.

“I think O-Line coaches by nature are fiery, so the guys won’t see a huge change there. The biggest thing for me will just be technique and the way I’m looking to do things,” Rodriguez said.

One of the biggest takeaways from the signing day event held inside FIU’s student union was the presence of the coaches - both head coach and assistants.

Every member of the staff was present as the class was being announced - which shows that there wasn’t a need for a last-minute push to convince recruits to sign with the Panthers.

“We’re solid and we feel great about all of the kids that we’re bringing in. There isn’t any fear about having to sell a kid, because everyone is committed,” said recruiting coordinator Nick Stuhlmuller.

There are two scholarship spots left open following today, which may be used on transfer players.

“That’s the plan as of right now, we’ll keep those spots open because you never know who is going to become available. My first year, we could have never expected Pharoh McKever (former FIU tight end) to become available that late in the process,” said Davis.

Today’s additions featured three Tampa-area players, including linebacker Chance Coleman who starred at Gaither High School - the same high school that produced Alex and Shane McGough.

“The Tampa area has a lot of talent, it’s hard to compare it to another area of the state, but it’s definitely an area that I take a lot of pride in being able to recruit well,” said tight ends coach Drew Davis.

Palm Beach County product Jamal Potts signed with FIU this morning and spoke of his reasoning for staying close to home, despite having multiple offers from Power Five programs.

“I just had a good feeling with the coaches - they’re going to allow me to play cornerback and I think I can come in and play early,” said Potts at his American Heritage signing day ceremony.

Here’s the full list of the players who were added to the class today.

Eric Wilson Jr.

Running Back, 5-11, 195

Armwood HS (Tampa, FL)

About Wilson: The Tampa Armwood product is considered a prize pickup for FIU. Wilson split reps in 2019, but still rushed for over 1,200 yards.

247 Ranking: Three-star

Chance Coleman

Linebacker, 6-0, 205

Gaither HS (Tampa, FL)

247 Ranking: Three-star

About Coleman: Coleman was verbally committed to South Florida before the coaching change and played both ways at Gaither High. He’ll play linebacker at FIU.

AJ Mathis

Linebacker, 6-2, 200

Largo HS (Largo, FL)

247 Ranking: Three-star

About Mathis: Mathis was a Miami commit until the day before FIU’s upset victory over the Hurricanes. He had interest from various Power Five programs.

Joe Perkins

Defensive Back, 6-0, 196

Madison-Ridgeland Academy (Madison, MS)

247 Ranking: Three-star

About Perkins: The Mississippi native held a Power Five offer from Colorado, but choose FIU instead. He played safety in high school and should remain at that spot in college.

Jamal Potts

Cornerback, 6-2, 185

American Heritage HS (Delray Beach, FL)

247 Ranking: Three-star

About Potts: The lone South Florida product to sign on Wednesday is projected to be a corner at the next level. Potts chose FIU because he believes he can play immediately.

“It was close to home and the relationship with the coaches made me feel good, I feel like I can play right away,” said Potts at his signing day ceremony.

Jecoryan Davis-Hamilton

Athlete, 6-1, 194

Apopka HS, (Apopka, FL)

247 Ranking: Three-star

About Davis-Hamilton: Davis-Hamilton comes from a Central Florida powerhouse program in Apopka. He had interest from UCF and Auburn.